They’re an odd couple, Jason McAteer and David May.
One’s skinny, the other’s chubby (don’t tell him that, though). One’s gregarious, the other’s awkward. One’s Irish, the other’s English.
And, of course, one used to play for Liverpool, the other for Manchester United.
“I don’t even like him!” said Treble-winning former United defender May.
“And I can’t stand him!” replied McAteer, the former Liverpool and Republic of Ireland midfielder.
And yet there they both were, joking around and finishing each other’s sentences (ain’t that the sweetest thing?) at Astro’s launch of their Euro 2012 Special Pass like only a couple of former Premier League rival players can.
Astro Supersport’s Adam C. rather graciously referred to them as Liverpool and Manchester United “legends”, even though the only thing May was famous for was hogging the Champions League trophy during the celebrations in 1999 even though he hadn’t played a single minute of that European campaign, and McAteer for being part of the infamous Spice Boys (the mention of which still irks him) and having hit Roy Keane’s elbow with his face.
(The two had a falling out after Keane’s infamous walk-out on the Republic of Ireland team at the 2002 World Cup, and Keane, as usual, took the law into his own hands during a match against McAteer’s Sunderland.)
Legends they might not be, but well-loved by their fans? Definitely.
McAteer’s “write it in your book” gesture at Keane alone would’ve made him a cult hero in many parts of England (totally worth the rearranged nose, I’m sure), and he wasn’t too bad as Stifler in American Pie either.
And May? He was part of the squad that helped win the Treble, but has more importantly been used by United fans to taunt his former Blackburn teammate Alan Shearer, who rejected the chance to join United twice.
His song among the fans goes David May, superstar, got more medals than Shear-er. Clever, eh? The fans probably love him just for that chance to stick it to Shearer.
Anyway, R.AGE got the chance to have a little chat with the two, and here’s what they had to say about Euro 2012, racism in football, and having a good punch-up in the tunnel:
R.AGE: So, you guys applying for the England job?
Jason McAteer: Considering I’m from Ireland, no! But then again, England do hire anybody, don’t they?
R.AGE: Well if management isn’t for you, any chance you’ll pull a Paul Scholes/Thierry Henry?
JM: I don’t think that’s in my hands. No-one has asked me back to play… That’s telling me something!
David May: You’ve seen him play recently? *shakes head*
R.AGE: This one’s for Jason – Do you and Roy Keane still have your weekly Scrabble nights?
JM: [Laughs] I’m going to let Maysie answer this one…
DM: I’ve not spoken to Roy in years.
JM: I don’t think anyone speaks to Roy…
DM: I don’t think his wife speaks to him.
R.AGE: Ooooh… David, you were known as a real prankster in the United dressing room. Does Alex Ferguson appreciate that kind of stuff?
DM: Yeah! But it wasn’t just me. There was Giggsy, Nicky Butt, Eric (Cantona, duh) – everybody had jokes. Everyone would pull pranks against each other. It was just a thing to get the team to bond. When it comes to that final crunch of a game, when the buck’s against you, you know you can rely on your mates.
JM: It’s an important part of the ingredients for a successful team. You need people like Maysie, to bring laughter to the dressing room, to bring people out of their shells.
DM: A happy dressing room…
Together: … is a good dressing room.
R.AGE: Is the game getting too serious, maybe?
JM: There’re no characters in football anymore.
DM: You stuck the nail on the head there. You don’t hear about people joking or having a laugh now cos it’s too serious.
R.AGE: Is that where this whole racism thing is coming from, people taking some light-hearted banter too seriously?
JM: It’s a terrible thing, racism, but maybe it got a bit out of hand because of the way the media portrayed it, the way it was hyped up. It just escalated.
Suarez said something in his native tongue that was misinterpreted by a player from a rival team, and the media plays on it, and Suarez gets an eight-match ban. Evra then gets abused. It’s something that could have been dealt in the two dressing rooms, between the two managers and the two players coming together and shaking hands on it.
DM: Things like this, years ago, would have been resolved in the tunnel [said with those “if-you-know-what-I-mean” eyes].
R.AGE: By “resolved”, you mean a punch-up?
DM: Yeah, maybe…
JM: It would be. [Turns to Maysie] Seems like everything’s so delicate now, isn’t it?
DM: Yup, delicate. Got to be politically correct, can’t say this, can’t say that.
JM: But where does it end? If I get called a pikey, or someone gets called “big nose”, “ginger head”… We’re all adults. (What Suarez said) wasn’t said in an aggressive, disgusting way. It was to get a reaction from another player. It just got blown out of proportion.
R.AGE: Your life must be so boring now compared to your Spice Boys years?
JM: We didn’t live a glamourous, going out all the time life. It was more of a derogotary term. We don’t find it quite as affectionate as some people think.
We were very professional. Unfortunately we were up against a very similar Man United team – similar in age, in aspirations. Unfortunately, we fell short of the task and Man United won everything, and we got the tag of Spice Boys and it was hard to shake off.
But we trained hard, prepared in the right manner, and we went out at the right time and enjoyed ourselves, but unfortunately Man United got the results and we never.
R.AGE: Did you ever envy Spice Boys?
DM: No. When we played them in 96, in the FA Cup (final), just to see them in their suits for that occasion, we didn’t need any motivating.
R.AGE: Players on social media now – “Like” or “Dislike”?
DM: I don’t understand it, why you’d want to share your day-to-day living with anyone else? It’s a nonsense. I don’t tweet, I don’t have an account or anything.
JM: We get enough abuse actually playing in football matches, from opposing fans or walking down the street. You can easily get abused. So to be active on Twitter is opening your personal life to a world of abuse. I don’t understand why any footballer would want to do that. Twitter, people have the power to write about your family, your wife, your children…
R.AGE: But doesn’t it also help bring the fans closer to the players?
JM: They get close enough every Saturday! And the problem is it brings other players into it, other clubs into it. Actually, football behind the scenes is a very private and confidential place. There’s a lot of things we talk about that we wouldn’t discuss with the outside world. We have a mutual respect for each other. Things like that shouldn’t be shared.
Twitter enables some footballers to abuse it, like Joey Barton. It’s poor, what he does on Twitter. It should be wiped out. Footballers shouldn’t be allowed on Twitter.
R.AGE: Do you still get stick from rival fans?
R.AGE: Really? Like when you’re walking down the street?
JM: I never understand that! I still don’t understand how people can walk down the street and shout at someone else when they don’t even know them!
DM: That’s the stupid thing. If you’d actually walked over to him, sat down and had a conversation with him, you would probably turn around and say – “I never thought you were like that!”
I’ve heard that so many times: “You’re alright, actually.” How on earth did you think I was? Just because I played for Manchester United, doesn’t mean I’m a horrible person. People perceive you as a totally different thing, and it’s totally wrong.
R.AGE: Who’s the player you hated the most?
JM: [Without batting an eyelid] Robbie Savage.
DM: Dennis Wise.
JM: If it wasn’t for Robbie Savage, it would’ve been Dennis Wise for me too.
R.AGE: Wow. Didn’t have to think long about that one… What’s up with those guys?
DM: (Dennis Wise) was just a horrible little nasty player that would always cause trouble.
R.AGE: Maybe he was misunderstood, you know, like he’s different when he’s off the pitch?
DM: Maybe. I’ve never met him off the pitch, so I can’t say.
JM: Pfft. I have. He’s like that as well.
R.AGE: And Savage?
JM: He’s just a d***.
R.AGE: Who’s your best friend in football?
DM: [Shrugs his shoulders] Don’t have any.
JM: [Thinks for a while] It would have to be Macca. Steve McManaman.
R.AGE: Who do you think is going to win Euro 2012?
JM: The Spanish are going to be very hard to beat. They have the momentum, the confidence, they’re World Champions. They know how to win a tournament.
DM: I think Germany. But then you also have the Dutch. It depends a lot on the draw in the second round. You get these guys picked against each other, one of them has to go out, so it’s difficult to pin-point. But Spain, Germany, Holland… You could probably pick a winner out of the three.
* You can watch all 31 Euro 2012 matches live on Astro this June even if you aren’t a Sports Pack subscriber. Just get Astro’s Euro 2012 “Special Pass” for RM50!